Before I whizzed off to Professional Beauty I picked up an e-mail from an American friend about an article in the Huffington Post. This was an even more ludicrous than usual story about toxic chemicals in cosmetics.
The suggestions were as usual asserted without evidence and therefore could be dismissed just as easily. Anyway my friend’s comment trying to put things straight was deleted and her account with the Huffington Post closed. I quickly added a comment myself and shot off to the show.
There was lots of interesting stuff to see today and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I didn’t get to try the Doctor Fish sadly and I didn’t see many of the people I thought I might see there. But it was a good day out and some of what I saw will probably be appearing in blog posts soon.
One thing I did notice was a rather forlorn stand where a woman was offering a range of ‘totally natural’ skin care products. Totally natural didn’t seem to be a big draw either for her or for more established natural brands. At another point a charming woman tempted me to try an aloe vera lotion. She asked me if I had heard of aloe vera. I said that I knew a little bit about it. She went into a very well thought out sales pitch which I listened to carefully. She emphasised the health benefits and how much money I could make selling it in my part time. The interesting thing was that she made no mention of the obvious point – that it was natural – even though the naturalness was plastered all over the tube. Presumably the natural story wasn’t working.
So that was interesting. The show was well attended but it is not open to the general public. Most people there are in the business to some extent or other and may be a bit jaded, but I do wonder if this is a sign that the natural cosmetics trend has at least peaked.
I got home late, had a pizza and read some papers. I was interested to see an article about the Huffington Post in the Observer. I don’t really know much about it, though it has been in the news a bit lately so I hadn’t fallen into the obvious error of thinking it was the local paper of somewhere in America called Huffington. What I learned was that it is a purely online publication owned by a woman called Ariana Huffington who has just sold it to AOL for hundreds of millions. This has enraged many of her writers who write for her for free because of her liberal sympathies.
Well I was mildly enraged too. I had taken time to post a comment on an article for the Huffington Post. So I too had spent my time making her website more valuable. Still I had only spent 10 minutes or so. And at least it explained why someone who knew nothing about the cosmetic industry was being allowed a platform to talk rubbish. They are probably getting short of contributors and can’t afford to be fussy. I went back to the article to see if my comment had itself attracted any comments. It hadn’t, because it too had been deleted.
I don’t know if it was deleted because it was critical of the original article. The criticism was fairly mild so it is hard to imagine that it was considered inflammatory. In any case my good friend Dene Godfrey had a much more strident comment accepted, so it can’t have been straight forward censorship.
I had a look at all the comments and did a very quick analysis. 46% were broadly in favour of the article. 15% were critical of it – a lot of them from Dene Godfrey. 18% were taking advantage to push commercial products. Arbonne was the only company getting more than one mention. 23% were comments that went off at a tangent from the subject of the article. This includes criticism of Arbonne products and several were humorous interventions from someone calling himself Cretin. As I have no way of knowing how many comments were disallowed, I can’t be sure that critical comments were more likely to get pulled. But with all due humility, I find it hard to believe that my contribution was truly less worthy than transparent self promotion of high price point skin care brands.
I do appreciate that high profile websites do have to moderate discussions and a lot of people do make comments that frankly are not a positive contribution. I don’t allow posts on here if I think that they don’t bring anything to the table. So I do not complain when other websites and blogs do the same. I don’t even complain when my comments are deleted. There is always the ‘everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everybody has said it yet’ problem.
But I do wonder what exactly the Huffington Post’s line is here. Allowing blatant commercial promotion in discussion threads is not generally conducive to a good debate. Removing comments without explanation is also not a great long term strategy. I won’t be posting on there again now. In fact I doubt I will read it again either.
P.S., It seems I was being paranoid – my posts haven’t been deleted. A friend e-mailed me to tell me they are still there. They have just fallen into an area you have to click on to get to. I still can’t find them myself but I have lost patience with the Huffington Post anyway. I withdraw my criticism of haphazard monitoring and replace it with a criticism of hard to follow structure. Both are minor compared to publishing rubbish in the first place.
PPS It turns out the Huffington Post do censor posts after all. Comments linking to Dene Godfrey’s rebuttal of the original article on Personal Care Truth are being suppressed.